California and New York City officials have ordered government workers to get fully vaccinated or face regular tests, ratcheting up the pressure on reluctant residents to curb rising COVID-19 cases blamed on the Delta variant.
New York City mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday, "The Delta variant is deadly and this city is taking it seriously," adding that, "Today, I’m announcing that every city government employee will be required to provide proof of vaccination or submit a weekly COVID test."
The United States' most populous city passed a vaccine mandate last week for all healthcare workers at hospitals and clinics.
More than 300,000 New York City employees are now required to get vaccinated by Sept. 13 or get tested weekly.
Sept. 13 is the deadline for school reopening, when a million students are set to return to classrooms in New York.
The crackdown was also launched in California, with Governor Gavin Newsom saying all 246,000 state employees would be ordered to get vaccinated starting Aug. 2 or face COVID-19 testing at least once a week.
"We're at a point now in this pandemic where an individual's choice to not get vaccinated is impacting the rest of us," Newsom told a news conference on Monday.
The vaccine and COVID-19 testing mandates have sparked legal opposition and remain a point of contention, with opponents calling them a violation of individual rights.
Some Republican leaders, who had previously been reluctant to join the effort, are also pushing vaccinations harder as cases linked to the rise of the Delta variant, which is believed to be more transmissible than the original virus.
"As COVID-19 cases are rising in all 50 states, I want to encourage all Georgians to talk with their doctor and get vaccinated," Georgia Governor Brian Kemp wrote on Twitter.
US top infectious diseases expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warned the United States is heading "in the wrong direction" on the coronavirus pandemic as virus situation is becoming "a pandemic among the unvaccinated Americans."
“We have 50 percent of the country not fully vaccinated. That’s a problem, particularly when you have a variant, like Delta, which has this extraordinary characteristic of being able to spread very efficiently and very easily from person to person,” Fauci noted.
US daily coronavirus infections rise again after numbers fell in May and June. The Delta variant has triggered the surge in new cases, partly reversing a drop-off after vaccines became widely available in the spring.
More than 34 million Americans have been infected with COVID-19 and over 616,000 deaths recorded so far in the US.
The sharpest increases in COVID-19 infections have come in US states with lower vaccination rates, including Florida, Texas and Missouri.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said just under half of the US population is fully vaccinated
The Delta variant has also prompted the federal government to delay any consideration of lifting existing travel restrictions in the near future, a White House official said Monday.